AS 545 SAN-SEA 12/11/04 Scheduled 6:30 9:27
Photo © Aaron Mandolesi - Mile High Images
I arrived at the airport around 5 AM. It only took a few minutes to check-in and clear security. Boarding began 35 minutes prior to departure. We had a pretty good load this Saturday AM: 16/16 F and about 80% of the 156 Y seats filled. We pushed back at 6:24 and took off at 6:34 for our 2 hr 15 min flight to Seattle.
In-flight service today was top notch. Our F/A (wish I'd caught her name) addressed everyone by last name and kept our glasses full. First Class was served a hot breakfast consisting of a burrito filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and sausage, accompanied by salsa and fresh fruit (one strawberry and several segments of pineapple and cantaloupe). The Y-class snack was a warm current scone, and the F/A offered them to the F cabin as well. The scone was very tasty, as was the burrito. The guy seated next to me declined the meal, and just asked for the fruit. To his (and my) surprise, she came back with a large fruit plate with something like 8 strawberries and lots of melon and pineapple...obviously went to some effort here (I'm assuming it was pieced together from extra meals since special meals aren't offered on this route).
While on descent into Seattle, the F/A came by to personally give each passenger connecting gate info. I thought it was a nice gesture, even though I think everyone had more than ample time. We arrived at gate C18 at 8:52, some 35 minutes ahead of schedule!
AS 165 SEA-ORD Scheduled 11:00 16:55
Photo © Ben Wang
I was expecting this flight to be full, but to my surprise it ended up booked to about 50% capacity. The final pax count was 85/144 as some of the 12:30 passengers were able to get on. F went out full, but there were only 5 seats reserved as of when I checked the night before. I know several passengers did the $100 paid upgrade, and the others used certs. More than one commented that they hadn't flown F in quite some time, so it was nice to see them have a chance to upgrade (especially on a flight with good service).
Our departure was delayed slightly due to ORD flow. We taxied out to runway 34L and pulled off to the side for 15 minutes awaiting our takeoff time of 11:37. The pilot assured us we had a strong tailwind, and said our 3 hr 10 min flight time would get us into ORD right on schedule. After takeoff, digeplayers were passed out. My initial unit had a wonky screen, but it was quickly substituted with another. The movie and TV selection seemed a bit better than the last time I flew.
The ORD flights feature a full meal service in both F and Y. Up front, we started with a fairly generic romaine salad and a nice French roll. The entree choices were:
roasted pork with cherries, mashed potatoes and broccoli
teriyaki chicken with noodles and snap peas
I had the chicken, which was tasty, if a bit boring. I overheard the pork was really good. Dessert was a chocolate silk pie, which was terrific. Another passenger declined, so I asked for and received a second slice. Our F/A, Patrick, provided excellent service. We chatted briefly about the ORD flights and possible future routes. Later in the flight, warm mixed nuts were passed out, followed by hot towels.
We landed at 16:48 and taxied to gate L4 quite rapidly, arriving right on time at 16:55. I overheard several passengers were connecting to a scheduled 17:25 AA flight to PHL...personally can't imagine booking such a tight connection through ORD.
Now for the return ORDeal...
AS 1601 ORD-LAX (operated by American Airlines) 12/12/04
Scheduled 17:40 18:02
Attempted kiosk check-in about 4:40 PM and got an error message. After a short wait in line, an AAgent told me my flight had been cancelled due to "high winds" (can't say I'd noticed). She said the earliest flight with availability was a scheduled 8:33 PM departure that was already delayed until 10:30. She put me on standby for the 6:40 PM flight (delayed to 7:40). She also said there was another flight leaving "now"...I asked her if that was the one delayed until 5:28 PM. She nodded, but said she confirm me a seat and told me to run to the gate as there might still be some seats available.
Unfortunately, getting to the gate wasn't so easy. They only had one lane open at security, resulting in a very slow moving line. To make matters worse, I was selected for additional screening for the first time in two years. After everything had been thoroughly scrutinized, I had to hike out to the end of the K concourse. By the time I got there, of course, they had already closed the flight. Agent assured me every seat was taken. She said they were rolling the standby list over to the next flight, which was already heavily waitlisted.
At this point, I decided the best thing to do would be to get on the next flight out headed to some place remotely close to LA. Otherwise, it seemed pretty likely I would be waiting around the airport for 5+ hours and then get into LA too late for anyone to pick me up. I asked if I could be rebooked on the next flight to SAN with a connection to the 9PM LAX-SAN flight. Agent hemmed and hawed...said there was availability, but why would I make a connection when I could fly non-stop?...blah blah blah... I told her that even if I missed the last SAN-LAX flight, it was still better for me because I could just go to my apartment, get some sleep and go to LA the next morning. Anyway, we eventually got it all sorted out, and I was off to L1 for my new flight to SAN.
AA 1017 ORD-SAN Scheduled 17:20 19:25
Super 80 MRTC
Photo © PeachAir
Monitors showed a delay until 6:15 PM. Boarding began at 5:40 and the bistro bAAgs were available in the jetway. I was glad to have an aisle seat, even if it was across from the rear galley. At least the legroom was decent, and the seats had the 6-way adjustable headrests. The F/A confirmed that the Super 80s are indeed now pillow-less (said other aircraft might be impacted too). She got me a blanket, which made a nice lower back cushion. Flight pushed back with a few empty seats (probably misconnects). To my surprise, there wasn't a big wait for takeoff. We lifted off at 6:28 for our 3 hr 57 min flight.
In-flight service consisted of two drink services (full can each time). I have always found AA crews to be polite and professional, and this flight was no exception. The bistro bag contained a turkey and cheese roll with Dijonnaise, Ruffles chips, a bag of cut carrots and a really tasty chocolate brownie. It wasn't bad at all. AA's next service enhancement (starting Feb '05) is to charge $3 for something very similar to the bistro bags currently provided free of charge.
Upon arrival in SAN, connecting gate info was given for the San Jose flight. Hopefully, there weren't too many trying to make that connection, as I saw the lone ERJ taxiing out as we taxied in. We parked at 8:29, and I hustled over to the commuter terminal for my flight to LAX.
AA 3056 SAN-LAX Scheduled 21:00 21:50
Photo © Phil Derner Jr.
Flight departed on-time for the short 30 minute, 109 mile jaunt to LAX. There isn't much legroom on these 34 seaters, but the flight is so short that I didn't care. We arrived a bit early at 9:40 PM.
As for the ORD-LAX flights, the one I was on standby for got in at 10:20 and my confirmed flight didn't arrive until 1:05 AM according to aa.com. All things considered, I didn't do too badly.
Despite the snags on the return, it was a fun trip overall, with good service from AA and AS.